Posts Tagged ‘Private Health Insurance’

My YouTube Video Urging People to Vote Labour to Defend the NHS

April 30, 2017

I’ve had my own YouTube channel for a few years now. I haven’t posted anything on there for quite a while, and most of the stuff I have posted up there is about archaeology, early musical instruments and few home-made space videos. However, today I put up a video urging people to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour to prevent the Tories privatising the NHS.

I state that it began when Margaret Thatcher came to power as part of her campaign to dismantle the welfare state, but that Thatcher was stopped from doing so by her a cabinet revolt and her Personal Secretary, Patrick Jenkin. The cabinet realised that if she did privatise the NHS, it would immediately result in the Tories losing an election. Also, Jenkin went to America and realised just how bad the American system of private healthcare was. So Maggie settled for trying to expand private healthcare in Britain, aiming to have 25 per cent of the British people take out private health insurance.

A few years later in the 1980s there came a dispute between her and the dentists, which resulted in very many of them leaving the NHS. The result of that is that, while there still are NHS dentists, you need to look for them. And private dental care is not cheap. So people are going without proper dentistry.

After that, Peter Lilley in John Major’s administration introduced the Private Finance Initiative, under which private corporations build and manage hospitals for the NHS. It’s essentially a scheme to keep the costs of construction and management off the books. In practice it’s massively more expensive than simply having them build by the state. Those hospitals, clinics and other medical services built through it also tend to be smaller than through ordinary hospitals built by the state. See the chapter in George Monbiot’s Captive State. This was all done to open up the NHS to private investment.

This programme was expanded by Tony Blair, as he, like the Tories, was approached by private healthcare firms such as Unum, Virgin Health, Circle Health and BUPA to privatise more NHS services. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wished to reduce the NHS to a kitemark for services provided for the state by private healthcare companies. He split the NHS up and handed its management to CCGs – Community Care Groups. This was supposed to be giving doctors greater freedom and more choice. However, it doesn’t do this as most doctors simply don’t have enough time to spend on administration. The CCGs were given the power to raise money privately, and commission services from private healthcare providers. Again, hospitals and the health centres or polyclinics Blair also built were also to be managed by private companies.

This programme did not stop when David Cameron’s new Conservative government was voted into power in 2010. Cameron had claimed that he going to stop further cuts in the NHS. He didn’t. He expanded the privatisation programme even further. The 2012 healthcare act formulated by his health minister, Andrew Lansley, is a convoluted document, but it removes the Health Secretary from having to provide medical services. Furthermore, the Tories have also passed legislation allowing the NHS to charge for services, even ambulance care. And this is still going ahead under Theresa May.

There is a real danger that the NHS will be abolished, and the country will return to the way it was before the Labour government introduced it. Private healthcare is not more economical and efficient than state healthcare. Private insurance companies and hospitals spend much more on management, including advertising, legal teams and simply trying to raise money from investors, to make sure their shareholders see a profit. There are about 50 million Americans without health insurance. 33,000 Americans die every year from lack of medical care. And it was like that before the NHS, when the charity hospitals, where people were sent if they didn’t have private health insurance, or weren’t covered by the state health insurance scheme, spent much of their time trying to raise money. And millions of people were denied healthcare, because they couldn’t afford it.

Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will renationalise the NHS. Dr. David Owen has also sponsored a bill to renationalise the NHS. They need our support. And so, if you want to keep the NHS, you should vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

For further information, see the following books:
NHS-SOS, edited by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis (London: OneWorld 2015)
Dr. Youseff El-Gingihy, How to Privatise the NHS in 10 Easy Steps (Zed Books)
and my own, Privatisation: Killing the NHS, published by Lulu.

Books on the Criminal Psychology of Tony Blair

April 10, 2017

Looking through the politics section of one of the secondhand bookshops in Cheltenham the other day, I also found two books arguing that Tony Blair was malign and psychologically unfit for office. One was by the Old Labour MP, Leo Abse, the other by the founder of the SDP and now Lib Dem, Dr David Owen. Abse’s book, the Politics of Perversion, used psychoanalytic theory to argue that Blair had the ruthless psychology of a clinical pervert. Owen’s book, the Hubris of Power, argued that Bush and Blair had spent so long in power, that they had become arrogant, believing they could get away with anything, no matter how unjust or despicable.

I only casually flicked through them, but just looking at Blair’s single-minded promotion of the Iraq Invasion, which in turn involved peddling lies, deceit and the persecution of dissenting officials – to the point where one of them, Dr David Kelly, took his own life – strongly bears this out. Wood in his book The Case against Blair, which argues that the former Labour leader should be prosecuted for war crimes for his role in the Iraq invasion, in one chapter compares Blair to Hitler. Both could be charming, a trait that in Hitler’s case masked his utter ruthlessness and which seemed to do the same in Blair’s case. I realise it’s a case of Godwin’s Law, but it is warranted. Blair’s participation in the Iraq invasion has also resulted in horrific crimes against humanity. And many clinical psychopaths can be extremely charming as they manipulate those around them without scruple or conscience.

Owen points out in his book that Bush and Blair aren’t the only leaders to be overwhelmed by power and a sense of their own importance. Indeed not. Maggie Thatcher also had the utter conviction that she was right and above criticism, whatever horror she and her government committed. And if she, Bush and Blair became intoxicated with power, you wonder what Owen thinks of the present incumbent of the White House. Trump is, after all, a massive megalomaniac who insists that everything he’s doing is ‘the best ever’, and insults, mocks and threatens anyone, who dares to say otherwise.

The Iraq invasion, which Blair ordered despite a million or so Brits marching against it and the opposition of 100-150 MPs, is doubtless the worst decision Blair made. It has resulted in at least 100,000 Iraqi casualties, the displacement of around 7 million people, and the descent of the region into carnage and civil war.

But this isn’t the only decision that Blair made that has actively harmed people. Domestically, Blair wanted to carry on the Tory project of privatising the NHS. His government set up the Work Capability Tests, which had also been urged on the Tory government by Unum, the American insurance fraudster, and its president, John Lo Cascio. These tests assume that most disabled people seeking government aid are malingerers, and so should be thrown off benefit. The result has been an increasing number of disabled people, who have died through starvation and misery. It was also Blair’s administration, that ended tuition fees, thus saddling millions of British students with thousands of pounds worth of debt.

This does not excuse the Tories from continuing these policies and massively expanding them in their turn, so that the death toll from those thrown off various disability benefits now adds up to several tens of thousands. But it does show that there was a ruthless streak in Blair, which did not care about the harm he caused, so long as he continued to get Tory votes and the approval of the Tory press for carrying out Tory policies.

Abse and Owen were right. And Blair is now trying to get back into politics, by positioning himself as representing the political middle ground. He wasn’t. Blair was a political extremist. The Tories at the time complained that his privatisation of the NHS was far more extreme than they had dared to perform through fear of criticism from Labour. His domestic policies continued the growth in poverty and disease, which began with Thatcher and which have received a massive boost by Cameron, Clegg and May. And his participation of the Iraq invasion destroyed a relatively wealthy, secular Middle Eastern state, with a good welfare state, high status of women, and religious toleration for the benefit of Israeli hawks, Saudi and American oil interests, and American multinationals, keen to loot the country and its natural and biological resources.

Blair’s policies were wicked, and he should not be allowed to return to power, whatever charming mask he’s now adopted to fool people into thinking he is the face of moderation.

The Humanist Report: Bernie Sanders Warns of the Power of Corporate Media

April 4, 2017

This morning Mike’s put up a piece attacking the mainstream media for their constant libels, falsehoods and misrepresentation of the Labour party, and their apparent success in convincing the general public that Labour, at least under Jeremy Corbyn, is unelectable.

Bernie Sanders wrote a piece in one of the American magazines a few weeks ago criticising the power of the corporate media in the US, and the way it constituted a genuine threat to democracy. The clip below is from the Humanist Report, whose host describes the article and Bernie’s argument.

Bernie stated that, as a rule, the issues that concern most working Americans are treated the least seriously by the corporate media, with those of severe concern to ordinary folks given the least serious coverage. The media also likes to present ‘politics as entertainment’, which explains the rise of Trump, an entertainer, who knows how to exploit this type of media coverage.

The media is also biased against working class issues and the politicos who stand up for working people, because of the power of the advertisers, in the extreme wealth of corporate presenters, and the shrinking number of corporations and the immensely wealthy tycoons that own them. Sanders points out that you don’t see any in-depth articles attacking the bloated prices for prescription drugs, that have made them unaffordable to the poor. That’s because American newspapers and corporate media make part of their revenue from the advertising from the pharmaceutical and health insurance companies.

The news presenters audiences see on their TV screens are also immensely rich through multi-million dollar contracts with the TV networks. Sanders points out that this doesn’t make them evil, but it does distance them from the bread and butter interests that matter to your average middle class person. Similarly, the number of companies that own the US media have also declined. There used to be about nine different companies owning American broadcasters. Now there are six. Thus the American media is increasingly in the hands of a small number of extremely powerful magnates. There are about 15 of these, whose individual wealth is in the billions.

This is dangerous because the corporate media still have the power to shape public opinion. For example, when Bernie was running for the presidential nomination last year, there was a more or less complete news blackout own him. But they gave plenty of coverage to that Nazi buffoon, Donald Trump. Academic studies, such as one made by Harvard, show that the corporate controlled media is effective in deciding which issues matters to Americans, such as terrorism.

The presenter states that this has been good for alternative media – for the Humanist Report, Secular Talk and The Young Turks, as people are increasingly turning to them. But it also means that the corporate-controlled media are failing in their job. They are meant to be the ‘fifth arm of government’, which keeps power in check and accountable to the American people. But they aren’t. They represent the aims and wishes of an immensely wealthy elite against those of the American people as a whole.

Bernie Sanders’ Presidential Medicare For All Bill

April 3, 2017

In his book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, which I reviewed yesterday, Bernie Sanders devotes an entire chapter to the problem of healthcare. He states very clearly and in great detail why America a system of free healthcare, which he calls Medicare For All. He shows that 48 million Americans cannot afford health insurance, and those that can, still may not be able to afford to go to the doctor because of the complex system of deductions that are part of private health insurance policies. The costs of prescription drugs is artificially high thanks to the pharmaceutical companies, so that poor Americans may not be able to afford them. Despite the Republicans sounding off, like the Tories over here, about the importance of access to mental health care, this is all beyond the reach of many Americans. As is proper dentistry. I’m English. Orwell joked as long ago as the 1940s in his book The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English, how my people have bad teeth, and it’s a gibe that’s been made regularly by Americans ever since. But despite the shining whiteness of the toothy-pegs of Hollywood celebrities, even this is beyond many Americans. Sanders describes how dentists and dental nurses in one county in Virginia once a month treat patients free for a day. So desperate are people for this treatment, that they actually sleep over night in their cars.

America needs Medicare For All. Bernie included it as one of the planks of his presidential campaign. He gives the text of it in his book. Here it is.

Medicare For All:
Leaving No One Behind

Coverage

A federally administered single-payer health care p0rogram means comprehensive coverage for all Americans. This plan will cover the entire continuum of health care, from inpatient to outpatient care; preventive to emergency care; primary to specialty care, including long-term and palliative care; vision, hearing and oral health care; mental health and substance abuse services; as well as prescription medications, medical equipment, supplies, diagnostics, and treatments. Patients will be able to choose a health care provider without worrying about whether that provider is in-network and will be able to get the care they need without having to read any fine print or trying to figure out how they can afford the out-of-pocket costs.

What It Means for Patients

As a patient, all you need to do is go to the doctor and show your insurance card. A single-payer plan means no more co-pays, no more deductibles, and more fighting with insurance companies when they fail to pay for charges.

Getting Health Care Spending Under Control

We outspend all other countries on our health, and our medical spending continues to grow faster than the rate of the inflation. Creating a single, public insurance system will go a long way toward getting health care spending under control. The United States has thousands of different health insurance plans, all of which set different reimbursement rates across different networks for providers and procedures. This results in an enormous amount of paperwork and high administration costs. Two patients with the same condition may get very different care depending on where they live, the health insurance they have, and what their insurance covers. A patient may pay different amounts for the same prescription drug depending solely on where the prescription is filled. Health care providers and patients must navigate this complex and bewildering system, wasting precious time and resources.

By moving to an integrated system, the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively. The government will also be able to track access to various providers and make smart investments to avoid provider shortages and ensure that communities have the providers they need.

Major Savings for Families and Businesses

The United States currently spends $3.2 trillion on health care each year – about $10,000 per person. Reforming our system, simplifying our payment structure, and incentivising new ways to make sure patients are actually getting better care will generate massive savings. This plan has been estimated to save the American people and businesses more than $6 trillion over the next decade.

The Typical Middle Class Family Would Save Over $5,000 Under This Plan

Last year, the average working family paid $4,955 in premiums and $1,318 in deductibles to private health insurance companies. Under this plan, a family of four earning $50,000 would pay just $466 per year to the single-payer programme, amounting to a saving of over $5,800 for that family each year.

Business Would Save Over $9,400 a Year
in Health Care Costs for the
Average Employee

The average annual cost to the employer for a worker with a family who makes $50,000 a year would go from $12,591 to just $3,100.

How Much Will It Cost?

This plan has been estimated to cost $1.38 trillion per year.

How Would It Be Paid For?

* A 6.2 per cent income-based health care premium paid by employers. Revenue raised: $630 billion per year.

* A 2.2 per cent income-based premium paid by households. Revenue raised: $210 billion per year. A family of four taking the standard deduction can have income up to $28,800 and not pay this tax.

Progressive Income Tax Rates

* Revenue raised: $110 billion a year. Under this plan the marginal income tax rate would be:

* 37 per cent on income between $250,000 and $500,000.

* $43 per cent on income between $500,000 and $2 million.

* 48 per cent on income between $2 million and $10 million. (In 2013, only 113,000 households, the top 0.08 per cent of taxpayers, had income between $2 million and $10 million).

*52 per cent on income above $10 million. (In 2013, only 13,000 households, just 0.01 per cent of taxpayers, had income exceeding $10 million).

* Taxing capital gains and dividends the same as income from work. Revenue raised: $92 billion per year. Warren Buffett, the second-wealthiest person in the country, has said that he pays a lower effective tax rate than his secretary. The reason is that he receives most of his income from capital gains and dividends, which are taxed at a much lower rate than income from work. This plan will end the special tax break for capital gains and dividends on household income above $250,000.

* Limit tax deductions for the rich. Revenue raised: $15 billion per year. Under this plan, households making over $250,000 would no longer be able to save more than 28 cents in taxes from every dollar in tax deductions. This limit would replace more complicated and less effective limits on tax breaks for the rich, including the alternative minimum tax, the personal exemption phaseout, and the limit on itemised deductions.

* The Responsible Estate Tax. Revenue raised: $21 billion per year. This provision would tax the estates of the wealthiest 0.3 per cent (three-tenths of 1 per cent) of Americans who inherit over $3.5 million at progressive rates and would close loopholes in the estate tax.

* Savings from health tax expenditures. Revenue raised: $310 billion per year. Several tax breaks that subsidise health care (health-related “tax expenditures”) would become obsolete and disappear under a single-payer health care system, saving $310 billion per year.

Most important, health care provided by employers is compensation that is not subject to payroll tax or income taxes under current law. This is a significant tax break that would effectively disappear under this plan, because all Americans would receive health care through the new single-payer, rather than employer-based program.

(pp. 334-8).

The Continuing Scandal of the DWP Asking the Depressed Why They Haven’t Committed Suicide

March 18, 2017

Mike this week put up a piece reporting and commenting on the admission by Maximus that they do indeed ask depressed people questions about suicide as part of the Work Capability Assessment. See http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/03/11/dwp-contractor-admits-routinely-asking-sickness-benefit-claimants-dangerous-questions-about-suicide/There are several questions. The first questions simply ask them if they have had thoughts about suicide, and the frequency and severity of these thoughts. These are, in my view, reasonable questions. Or rather, it would be if it were part of a genuine medical examination as part of a real programme to make that person well again. Depression isn’t a case of being ‘a bit down’. It is, as the British medical scientist, writer and Humanist, Lewis Wolpert described it in the title of his book, ‘A Malignant Sadness’. Clearly, if someone does have thoughts about suicide, they are extremely unwell and desperately need help.

The other questions, however, is unwarranted and frankly dangerous. The depressed person is then asked

“And what is it that stops you from acting on the thoughts that you have?

“Can you think of any reason that you’re not doing that? Is it friends or family support?”

Now it should be clear to anyone with the most meagre level of intelligence that asking people, who are already mentally fragile and have admitted they think of doing themselves injury or actually killing themselves, why they haven’t done so is extremely dangerous. My guess is that the way it is phrased in particular makes the question seriously unethical, as it seems to assume that the depressed person is not seriously troubled by these thoughts unless he or she has tried to act them out.

I don’t know, but I can imagine that if a social scientist or medical professional doing research amongst the clinically depressed asked the question, they could be hauled up before their relevant bodies overseeing professional standards for ethics violations or misconduct. As part of their training, social scientists are told not to phrase questions in the form of ‘You’re not…are you?’ And the Hippocratic Oath, a form of which doctors were required to take until recently, contained the provision ‘And I shall do no harm.’ These questions seem close enough to the first question, at least in spirit, to make them also unethical, while violating that provision of the ancient doctor’s Oath in that they could seem to some to be suggesting that they should.

The Work Capability Test itself is a scientific travesty. It is based on spurious and scientifically invalid research supposedly linking recovery to illness to mental attitude. The whole wretched test was introduced by Blair and his coteries on the recommendation of the American insurance fraudster, Unum, in a conference in the first years of this century. It is based on the attitude, shared by the Blairites and the Tories, that nearly everyone claiming invalidity or sickness benefit is a malingerer, despite the fact that such fraud only counts for 0.7 per cent of such claims.

The question also shows the immense double standards about health that persists between us and our rulers. It’s assumed that asking a severely ill person why they haven’t harmed themselves or committed suicide is acceptable. But heaven help anyone, who asked the same question of a captain of industry or leading politician why they haven’t tried to commit suicide, and you can imagine the feeding frenzy from an outraged press.

For example, the Blairite contender for the Labour leadership and flagrant liar, Angela Eagle, was asked by Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics about Tony Blair and whether the vile warmonger should face trial for leading Britain into an illegal war. Tellingly, she said no, as ‘Tony’s been through the wringer’. Thus showing that she cared more for the Dear Leader’s anguish than for the real horror he has inflicted on hundreds of thousands, of not millions of innocent people, who have been killed, tortured and forced out of their homes through the carnage he and that other malignant creature, George Dubya Bush, have created through their war. I don’t know what Neil’s response was, but can you imagine the outrage that would have resulted if Neil had said, ‘Well, he can’t be going through too much trouble, ’cause he’s still walking’.

Or if one of the other interviewers asked the same question of one of the Tories, like Theresa May, David Cameron, or the people directly responsible for the question: Ian Duncan Smith and Damian Green. There would have been fury directed at the ‘left-wing’ BBC. How dare they suggest that a minister of the realm isn’t doing his job if he hasn’t committed suicide for his failures! Or even the suggestion that they have failed in their job, which the Tories have, spectacularly.

But if it is acceptable to ask a gravely disturbed person why they haven’t acted out their desires to harm themselves, then by the same standard it should be acceptable to ask the same questions of anyone, including and particularly the ministers that have formulated that question.

Now I am not suggesting that Blair, May, Cameron, aIDS or Damian Green should be asked these questions, or otherwise be told to kill themselves, for precisely the same reason I don’t think anyone should be asked these questions. I am merely trying to point out the double standards involved here.

Now I imagine that if they were asked about this question, Damian Green or his predecessor, the Gentleman Ranker (and a right ranker he truly was) would say, in their inimitably patronising manner, that they are only trying to gauge the severity of the illness. This is rubbish. The whole test is structured so that the government can find some pretext to deny paying the ill person disability benefit on the grounds that they’re still somehow fit for work.

And Mike and many other bloggers and disability activists also see something much more sinister here. Many tens of thousands of people have committed suicide, or died in poverty and misery after being thrown off benefit, although the DWP continues to deny it. See Stilloaks website and the blog, ATOS Miracles, for further coverage of this and the biographies and individual cases of some of the victims. For Mike and people like Jeff Davies, one of the long term commenters on my blog this is evidence of a covert, secret genocide of the disabled. The government wants them dead, because that way they don’t have to pay out to support them. They can continue lowering the taxes of their rich donors.

This is how it’s beginning to look to very many of us, whether we’re disabled or fit. The presenters of the Channel 4 comedy review show, The Last Leg, even said so themselves. There should be mass outrage about these questions and the test itself. That there isn’t is a major disgrace in itself.

Trump Passes Law Allowing Gene Testing by Bosses

March 14, 2017

This is another, very chilling step towards genuine Fascism by Trump, who’s surrounded himself with Fascists and White Supremacists. In this piece from the David Pakman Show, the host and his producer, Louis, reveal how Trump introduced legislation that would permit employers to demand their employees take genetic tests and hand over information about the DNA. This was slipped past Congress when the public had their attention on the colossal mess that is Trumpcare. This overturns previous legislation which prevented employers from demanding such information, not least under US privacy laws. The legislation permits US employers to do this if they are running ‘wellness’ programmes. Pakman states that this is all about employers having the ability to charge people more for their healthcare, if they find out they have certain genetic conditions.

This is exactly what the authors Ruth Hubbard and Elijah Wald wished to expose and counter in their book, Exploding the Gene Myth (Boston: Beacon Press 1997).

The book is subtitled ‘How Genetic Information Is Produced and Manipulated by Scientists, Physicians, Employers, Insurance Companies, Educators and Law Enforcers’. It’s about the way the above have tried to link illness and criminality to heredity since the 19th century, and how this has led to eugenics legislation in which the ‘genetically unfit’ were sterilised and institutionalised in order to prevent them breeding. Or else it was used as pretext to prevent the passage of welfare legislation. The argument here was that it would be a waste of resources supporting those, who were unable to work as their illness was down to their own faulty biological heredity, not the terrible working conditions and industrial hazards of the time.

Eugenics was a favourite topic amongst the European and American chattering classes from the late 19th century until it was discredited by the horrors of the Nazi regime during World War II. But Hubbard and Wald warned that it was coming back with the drive to find a genetic basis for illnesses like schizophrenia and other traits. The book has the following chapters

1. Of Genes and People
The Role of Genetics in Our Lives
Genes for Deafness, Genes for Being Raped
A Word about Scientists
Heredity and Environment
What Are Genes?

2. Genetic Labelling and Old Eugenics
The Birth of Eugenics
Genetic Labelling
Involuntary Sterilisation
Eugenic Immigration Policies.

3. The New Eugenics: Testing, Screening and Choice
Overt and Subtle Eugenics
Parenting, Disabilities and Selective Abortion
Genetic Screening
Fallacies of Genetic Prediction.

4. A Brief Look at Genetics
Heredity and Genes
The Beginning: Gregor Mendel, “Traits” and “Factors”
From Mendel to the Double Helix
Genes and Proteins
How Chromosomes and Genes Are Duplicated
X and Y: The Sex Chromosome
From DNA to RNA to Proteins
How Genes Function
Sequencing the Human Genome
RFLPs: Linking DNA with Traits

5. Genes in Context
Definitions of Health and Disease
Individualisation of Health and Illness
Genes as Blueprints
Geneticisation
Diagnostic Labeling

6. “Inherited Tendencies”: Chronic Conditions
Some Underlying Assumptions
Conditions that Run in Families
Diabetes
High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, and Strokes
Cancer
Oncogenes and Anti-Oncogenes
Cancer Prevention and Cancer Screening
Breast Cancer
Cancer Prevention versus Cancer Therapy

7. “Inherited Tendencies”: Behaviours
Which Behaviours?
Homosexuality
Alcoholism
Problems of Linking Genes to Behaviour
Pitfalls of Behavioural Research: The XYY Fallacy

8. Manipulating Our Genes
Conventional Treatments for Inherited Conditions
Modifying DNA: Somatic Cell Manipulations
“Germ-Line Gene Therapy”: Changing Future Generations

9. Genes for Sale
Funds for Research, Profits for Biotechnology
Commercialisation and Conflicts of Interest
Owning the Genome
What to Do?

10. Genetic Discrimination:
Education, Employment and Insurance

Genetic Testing and the Schools
Genetic Discrimination in the Workplace
Measures in Counter Employment-Related Discrimination
Genetic Discrimination in Insurance

11. DNA-Based Identification Systems, Privacy, and Civil Liberties
DNA and the Criminal Justice System
Scientific Problems with DNA Profiles
Genetic Privacy and Civil Liberties
Employment- and Health-Related Issues
Controlling Genetic Information.

There is also a preface, in which they give their reasons and aims for writing the book, a conclusion and afterword, as well as an appendix on mitochondrial DNA, notes, glossary and a bibliography and list of other resources.

There were a series of scandals regarding the enforced genetic testing of employees in the ’80s and ’90s, one of which was compulsory genetic testing of a set of recruits in the US army. They also make it very clear that the insurance companies wanted to introduce it as a way of charging those with ‘faulty’ genes higher premiums.

And from that, it’s a very short step to eugenics and then the mass slaughter of the congenitally disabled under the Third Reich’s Aktion T4.

The forcible genetic testing of US recruits is mentioned in one of the books that came out on the X-Files, as an example of how the paranoid fantasies of the show nevertheless had a factual basis in this instance. To be fair to the Christian Right in the America, they are very hostile to sterilisation and eugenics. However, it’ll be interesting to see if they oppose this noxious piece of legislation. In much of the rhetoric of the religious right, such legislation is linked to oppressive, totalitarian states, like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. It’ll be interesting to see if they oppose it when it’s introduced by an ostensibly democratic government (yeah, I know, it ain’t really), dominated by big business and which is bitterly hostile to any kind of Socialism.

I don’t think you’ll see a word against it. As Pakman explains, when it came to voting, all the Republicans voted for it, all the Democrats against. And I doubt the right-wing Conspiracy fringe will oppose it either. Alex Jones on Infowars has been pumping out pro-Trump propaganda since the Orange Nazi’s election campaign. He wants Americans to believe that Trump is somehow ‘anti-globalist’, despite the fact that he’s stuffed his cabinet full of globalists and monopoly capitalists.

This is truly terrifying, as it does bring us once step closer to the genetic dystopia of the film Gattaca.

And it’s yet more proof of the Nazism at the core of Trump’s administration.

Counterpunch on California Healthcare Workers Defending Immigrants and Demanding Single-Payer Healthcare

March 2, 2017

This sort of leads on from my last post, in which I blogged about Kyle Kulinski reporting on initiatives into introduce single-payer healthcare in California on his show, Secular Talk. There’s a fascinating piece in today’s Counterpunch by Cal Winslow reporting that the Californian trade union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers, have declared that they will resist attempts by the Trump regime to deport undocumented immigrant members of their organisation. Winslow writes

Thirteen thousand members of the California-based National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) have taken the resistance movement a step further by declaring themselves a “sanctuary union.”

After a series of union-wide meetings, NUHW joined the growing network of sanctuary institutions last month by pledging to do everything within its power to “ensure the safety and security of all members of our community regardless of their immigration status.” This means the union “will not voluntarily cooperate with federal agents to enforce immigration laws.”

Immigrant labor is vital to patient care. American hospitals and nursing homes employ workers from around the globe, and membership reflects that diversity.

“Many of our members and their patients are undocumented immigrants, or have family members who are undocumented,” said NUHW President Sal Rosselli. “We have a responsibility to protect and defend them.”

The union has also passed a resolution supporting Medicare For All in California, and are working with two Democrat state senators to achieve this.

Our union has been leading on this issue since the early 1990s and we reaffirmed our support for universal coverage earlier this year. We define real healthcare reform as Medicare for All — a single-payer system. In the 1990s there were initiatives on the California ballot toward accomplishing Medicare for All and other patient protections. We worked with scores of organizations to craft and advocate for those initiatives, but none became law.

Now, we have a new opportunity — even with all the things that are happening with the federal government and Obamacare. We have an opportunity in California to quickly achieve major healthcare reform for everyone in the state. State Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) have introduced legislation that we strongly support. This is the way for California to get ahead of the curve and avoid the catastrophe of millions of people losing access to care. And if we can accomplish this in California, which has about 12 percent of the nation’s population, why not the whole country?

In the interview, Rosselli also talks about what his union is doing to protect immigrant workers from persecution by Trump, including using law firms to defend them in the courts. The union is also pressing to give people the same access to mental health care and the struggle they have had to achieve this with Kaiser Permanente. Equal access to mental healthcare is particularly under threat from Trump’s repeal of Obamacare.

Rosselli states that his union is part of the growing resistance to Trump, and they see their role as empowering and educating their workers about the issues confronting them.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/02/healthcare-workers-proclaim-sanctuary-union-push-for-medicare-for-all-in-california/

The reference to Kaiser Permanente is also relevant to the British debate about the involvement of private medicine, as the Blairites’ and the Tories’ break up of the NHS into Community Care Groups, and the use of referral centres to double check the cost efficiency of sending patients to particular hospitals, is based very much on the system of Managed Care set up by Kaiser Permanente. The morons and corporate whores in New Labour thought it was more efficient. It isn’t. It’s less so, but gives power to private healthcare providers and insurance companies. It also adds another layer of bureaucracy to the NHS while opening the door to the privatisation of much of its infrastructure. Which is what the Blairites intended.

American Politico Rick Santorum Calls People with Medical Conditions ‘Scammers’ Trying to Steal Health Insurance

March 2, 2017

In this video from The Ring of Fire, presenter Farron Cousins rips into Republican politician Rick Santorum for his mean-spirited, bigoted comments about people with pre-existing medical conditions. Santorum appeared on CNN this week, where he described people with these conditions as ‘scammers’ who were trying to steal others’ medical care. Farron points out that he didn’t describe how this was being done, when a scam is a deceit that is carefully planned and executed. He points out that people with medical conditions like diabetes or heart conditions aren’t scammers, trying to cheat others out of their healthcare. They are often people, who haven’t even spent a day doing anything wrong, who would otherwise find it extremely difficult to get medical care without Obama’s Affordable Care Act. How dare they take medical care away from those Americans, who don’t really need it! He makes the point that this is the common Republican strategy of trying to get people to turn on each other, as they’ve done with immigration.

This time, however, it won’t work. Ill health affects everyone, regardless of their political affiliation, Republicans and Libertarians just as much as Democrats, Green Partiers or whoever. By sneering at people with these medical problems, Santorum also shows how much he despises that segment of the Republican party who have them.

Cousins then lays into Santorum’s own massive political incompetence. He’s repeatedly tried and failed to get the presidential nomination. Cousins makes the point that he’s a stupid man, who says whatever comes into his head, who has so far been fundamentally lucky, but thinks it’s due to his own cleverness. With heavy sarcasm Cousins ends the clip ‘Good luck with your political career, Mr Santorum. You’re going to need it.’

Santorum is indeed no stranger to controversy. A few years ago his vocal opposition to gay marriage resulting in outrage gays and their supporters taking their own bizarre revenge against him. The submitted his name to the Urban Dictionary as the name for a substance too crudely biological to be decently mentioned in a family website.

It would be easy to dismiss Santorum’s comments as another product of the weird mentality of the American Right, which has no relevance to us Brits. But his mindset isn’t confined to him by any means.

It’s also very much the attitude of the Tories and the Blairites in the Labour party.

Mike and the other left-wing bloggers have pointed out that welfare fraud only accounts for 0.7 per cent of benefit claims. But thanks to the Tories and their media collaborators, like the Daily Heil and the Scum, the general public believes that it’s far more than that, and that roughly a quarter of all claims are fraudulent. This is how the Tories get their support for cutting down ESA, PIP and continuing with the wretched health assessments by ATOS and now Maximus.

And speaking of the work capability assessment, let’s not let Blair and his coterie in the Labour party off the hook for introducing it. Blair introduced it based on advice from insurance fraudster Unum and its head, John Lo Cascio, based on a piece of scientifically invalid nonsense, that considers poor health to be largely determined by mental attitude. Critics of the conference in which New Labour formulated its introduction of the tests and took the advice of Unum and other private health insurance companies on its implementation have repeatedly pointed out that the policy assumes that a large number of benefit claims are simply malingering. Blair and his minions even stated this at the conference in so many words.

The result of this is that there has been a massive rise in hate crime against the disabled. Mike last week reported the case of a young man with learning difficulties, who was beaten to death by a couple of young thugs. They seem to have thought their victim was a paedophile, but Mike also points out how much of their hate was inspired by the constant demonization of the ill and disabled by the Tories and their media.

And then there’s the role of the tests in creating massive poverty in this country. Mike, Stilloaks, Johnny Void, the Angry Yorkshireman, Kitty S. Jones and many, many other left-wing bloggers have posted up the names of some of the hundreds of victims of the Work Capability Assessment, who have died of starvation, misery or despair after being thrown off benefit. There’s even a whole website devoted to criticising it and the harm it’s doing to the sick and disabled: Atos Miracles. As Mike reported, another poor woman ended her life this week, thanks to the same malignant policy.

Mike, and Jeff3, one of the commenters on this blog, have repeatedly asked the rhetorical question whether behind all this there is a deliberate eugenics programme to cleanse Britain of its disabled by stealth, just as the Nazis started murdering the congenitally ill in the infamous Aktion T4 during the Third Reich. It’s a good question. Thatcher’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph, stirred up controversy in the 1970s when he claimed that single mothers were a threat to British genetic stock. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was Jewish, he would have fitted right in with the Nazi party.

Santorum’s stupid, bigoted comments about the long-term sick and disabled being ‘scammers’ aren’t the exception. They aren’t the peculiarly twisted view of some nutty American right-winger. They’re bog-standard across the transatlantic Right. You find them in the Tories, their Lib Dem enablers, the Blairites in the Labour Party, and screaming at you every day in the page of the Murdoch Press, the Heil, Express and other tabloids. And this is having an effect. They’re encouraging a government determined to deny people support even if, or especially if, it kills them.

If you accept Santorum’s comments, if you support the Republicans in their repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or support the Tories and Lib Dems over here, or hanker for the return of Blair or one of his cabinet of horrors to return to lead the Labour party, you are supporting this policy of bigotry, murder and death.

Counterpunch and Private Health Insurance Companies’ War on the Working Class

February 27, 2017

There’s a very interesting article in today’s Counterpunch by Andrew Stewart, ‘Down With Obamacare, Up With Single-Payer’, which examines the various problems behind Obama’s affordable care act, and discusses the real reason the various private health insurance companies support it. And it ain’t pretty. In his article, he discusses how Ted Kennedy argued for a single-payer healthcare scheme, which would provide uninsured Americans with proper healthcare coverage while still involving the insurance companies. Stewart writes

At the end of his life, Edward Kennedy laid out in his book America Back on Track his logic and reasoning for creating a single-payer healthcare system. His argument was that Medicare could merely reduce the enrollment age to birth and almost instantaneously a federal program that is highly lauded would be able to provide healthcare for millions of uninsured Americans. As it stands right now, the insurance companies already make out fine with Medicare, they act as facilitators for payment of taxpayer funds and have booming business providing primary payer care for the elderly. Health insurance scholar and retired medical school professor Dr. John Geyman recently wrote (http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/39570-how-the-gop-can-avoid-the-trap-of-repealing-the-aca) “If the GOP pursues its claimed conservative principles, such as maximizing efficiency and choice, enhancing value, lowering costs, and reining in excess bureaucracy, another alternative is in plain sight, which supports these principles — single-payer national health insurance (NHI).”

So why don’t Conservatives and the insurance companies support single-payer? Because the private healthcare industry is a fundamental element in keeping workers in their place, subservient and dependent on their employers.

The issue is simple, healthcare is a major impediment to wider labor mobility in the job market. Under the ACA, people are restricted by large income caps. If they go over the income cap, they are slammed with huge copays and deductibles. As such, the law incentivizes living below the poverty line until one finds a full-time employer with a decent benefits package. This gives the employer the upper hand in any instance when they sit across the table from the workers. The ACA is nothing more than part and parcel of a larger system of control, created in collaboration between the private and public sectors, to restrict workers in their demands for higher wages and better quality of life. A single payer health plan would enable the type of labor mobility that would be a genuine benefit for working people nationwide. Even the desirable anti-discrimination clauses in the ACA, which quite admirably ended decades of industrial practices that targeted women and those with pre-existing conditions, are nothing but band-aids on a massive gash in the social safety net. The fact Bernie Sanders continues to support this diabolical system is nothing but wretched.

He then argues that neo-liberalism is as racist in its control of the poor as the various Nazis and White supremacists with whom Trump has stuffed his cabinet. The neoliberals’ war on the White working class has led directly to the rise of right-wing Fascism and populism under Trump. He argues strongly and persuasively that the Left needs to purge itself of the neoliberals, and concludes

The cancer of neo-fascism, neoliberalism, and accommodation is only going to be eradicated finally with a full-throated set of demands that includes single-payer healthcare. Anything less will only enable a further slide in our socio-political discourse towards reaction.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/27/down-with-obamacare-up-with-single-payer/

The Grim Implications for Britain of Chelsea Clinton and her Book on Global Health

February 27, 2017

In this short video from The Jimmy Dore Show, the American comedian and his co-hosts, Stef Zamora and Rob Placone, rip into the New York Times for publishing a bit of non-news from Chelsea Clinton. She’s the daughter of Hillary and Bill Clinton, and the NYT saw fit to publish on its pages a tweet from her, saying that the she read Fahrenheit 451 in 7th grade, and it still makes her feel uncomfortable. It’s widely considered that Chelsea Clinton is being groomed to follow her parents into politics. That’s the message that Dore, Placone and Zamora got from this tweet. They feel it’s a puff piece for her. And so did several of the NY Times’ readers. One Mr Flugennock tweeted back that the newspaper should come off it, as ‘we aren’t going to vote for her’. Accompanying this was a photo of Clinton junior with the caption, ‘Mommy, your clothes fit me now.’

Indeed they do. Both Chelsea and her vile parents seem to be highly critical of state medicine. During her election campaign last year, Killary declared that single-payer healthcare was ‘utopian’. As Dore and the other left-wing American newscaster repeatedly pointed out, it’s a utopian institution that every other country in the developed world has, except America. And Chelsea seems to think the same thing. I distinctly remember her saying something sneering and dismissive about socialised medicine or single-payer health care a few years ago.

Dore, Placone and Zamora joke about the essentially vapid content of the tweet. Zamora commented that she also read Green Eggs and Ham by Dr Zeuss in the 1st Grade, and it still makes her feel uncomfortable about green eggs. Rather more seriously, Dore remarks on her comments seem to suggest that she expected to feel more comfortable with age about the book’s dark subject matter. Fahrenheit 451 is one of SF and Fantasy author Ray Bradbury’s classic novels, alongside The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. The book takes its name from the temperature at which paper burns. It’s a dystopian book, set in a future where a despotic government has banned literature and reading. In this world, firemen are people, who start firesm not put them out, consigning books and learning to the flames. Of course it’s a disturbing book. It follows the real life burning of subversive literature by oppressive regimes and movements, like Nazi Germany. It’s why Dore also makes a heavily ironic joke about not getting used to the Holocaust either.

The NY Time’s also mentions that Chelsea Clinton has also co-authored a book herself. This is Governing Global Health, an ‘unbiased’ book, which examines public-private healthcare partnerships around the world, and looks forward to them becoming increasingly important in tackling world health. Dore, Zamora and Placone miss the serious undertones for this, joking instead about its supposed connection to Clinton’s comments about Bradbury’s masterpiece. This is supposed to have disturbed her so much, she wrote a book of her own.

But Clinton fille’s authorship of this tome has serious and very ominous overtones for state healthcare elsewhere in the world, and most immediately in Britain. Public-Private Partnerships are basically the Blairite ‘Third Way’, which they in turn inherited from the Tories’ foul Peter Lilley. This capering bigot was upset that private enterprise was locked out of the NHS, and so created the Private Finance Initiative. This is where the state bales out and subsidies private firms for building and managing NHS hospitals. It’s more expensive, and so the hospitals built under it are fewer and smaller. Even worse, perfectly efficient and excellent state hospitals have had to be closed, so that Blair and the Tories could provide more lucrative work for their friends in private healthcare.

Blair took over the Clinton’s electoral strategy and their corporatist, anti-working class ideology and injected it into the Labour party. Bill Clinton’s campaign was based on rejecting the Democrats traditional base in the working class, and abandoning what little welfare provision there was, in order to win votes from Reaganite Republicans. And the policy’s continued under Obama and Shrillary. Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democrats, famously stated last year that he wasn’t concerned if they lost blue collar voters, as for every one they lost, they’d pick up two or three suburban Republicans. This is the same attitude that infects Blairite Labour. Blair, Mandelson, Broon and Campbell targeted affluent swing voters in marginal constituencies, sacrificing the interests of the working class in order to appeal to middle class Thatcherites. The policy didn’t work, and is creating massive poverty. But the corporatist elite love it, and so the Clintonites in America and Blairites over here are still pushing it.

And just as Blair took over the Clintonite free market ideology, the same corporate interests that infest American politics also came over her to win contracts in healthcare, the prison system and other parts of the state infrastructure. Companies like the notorious health insurance fraudster, Unum. The American private healthcare companies realised that the market in America was in serious trouble, due to rising costs. There was an excellent article in Counterpunch a month or so ago, which reported that in some areas it almost broke down before being rescued by Obama’s affordable care act. With the market in America glutted and sinking, they’ve come over here to win contracts from our NHS. And our politicos have been stupid and malignant enough to give them to them.

I think Dore and co. are right. Chelsea Clinton is being groomed to succeed her parents. And as a believer in private healthcare, she does want to push the privatisation of our NHS for the profit of her country’s private healthcare firms. She has to be stopped. If she enters politics to push her vile agenda, it’ll be bad for America and terrible for Britain and our NHS. Keep her – and them – out of politics and out of Britain.